Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the need to retain staff keeps firings at the lowest levels in more than a decade.
Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 291,000 in the week ended Nov. 15 from an upwardly revised 293,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed in Washington. The median forecast of 51 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decline to 284,000.
It was the 10th straight week the number of claims has been lower than 300,000, which hasn’t happened since 2000.
Companies are holding on to more workers to keep pace with demand for domestic goods and services that has held up even as growth in overseas markets cools. As a result, firings have lingered near historically low levels and payrolls are rising, giving U.S. households a needed lift as the holidays approach.
“Claims are still well under the 300,000 mark and they’ve remained there for a little over two months now, and that bodes well in terms of payroll growth,” said Gregory Daco, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics USA Inc. in New York, who forecast 290,000 claims.
“We’re seeing good prospects and a strong trend” for progress in the labor market.
Another report showed the cost of living was little changed in October, reflecting a slump in energy prices. Over the past 12 months, the consumer-price index climbed 1.7 percent, the same as in September, according to the Labor Department.
Claims estimates from 51 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 265,000 to 295,000. The prior week’s claims were revised up from an initial reading of 290,000.
The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, climbed to 287,500 from 285,750 the week before.
The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 73,000 to 2.33 million in the week ended Nov. 8, the fewest since December 2000.
In that same period, the unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.8 percent, the report showed.
Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and typically decrease before job growth can accelerate.
Federal Reserve policy makers are debating how much longer to keep interest rates near zero as their dual mandate tugs them in different directions. While the labor market continues to improve as the jobless rate approaches what policy makers consider full employment, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge has made little progress this year toward the central bank’s 2 percent target.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues last month focused on improvements in the labor market when they announced an end to their stimulative bond purchases. They also said that the risk of inflation remaining persistently below their goal had ebbed.
Nonetheless, minutes of the meeting showed many Fed policy makers thought the central bank should be on the lookout for signs of a decline in expectations for inflation.
“Many participants observed the committee should remain attentive to evidence of a possible downward shift in longer-term inflation expectations,” according to a record of the Oct. 28-29 Federal Open Market Committee meeting released in Washington. “Some of them noted that if such an outcome occurred, it would be even more worrisome if growth faltered.”
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